Disability campaigners have promised they will not lie down in the face of cutbacks to their services and have warned government TDs they will experience an ‘autumn of discontent’ if the proposed €130 million health-budget cuts are introduced.
Cuts to be made to the health budget for the remainder of the year will see some 600,000 home-help hours being cut, while €10 million will be cut through a reduction in personal-assistant hours for people with disabilities.
The reduction in personal-assistant hours has angered disability campaigners, who feel they have been unfairly targeted because they are not protected under the Croke Park agreement. Michael Corbett, a Newport-based member of the Disability Federation of Ireland (DFI), said one third of the personal-assistant budget was being cut, which he says ‘flies in the face’ of HSE policy to integrating people with disabilities into the community.
He told The Mayo News that since the news of the cuts has been made public, the DFI has been organising campaigns to oppose them. The organisation will also be calling on government TDs in Mayo to use their influence to contest the cuts.
“ The only reason they [Department of Health] are doing it is because they can and the reason they can is because the people affected are the most vulnerable. They cannot blame ‘the Troika’ when they continue to pay consultants €200,000 a year and way over the odds for drugs. The Troika didn’t tell them to pick on the disabled and elderly, and I don’t think they will like how the government are going about it.
“We will be demonstrating in Dublin this week outside the Dáil, and we will continue for as long as necessary. This will be an autumn of serious discontent. We will camp outside the Taoiseach’s office and picket the other local government TDs if these cuts are not turned around. We have fought for years for these services … We will not be taking this lightly and the government needs to be aware of this,” he warned.
Ring at Paralympics ‘galling’
The Paralympic Games in London has helped put people with disabilities and their achievements to the fore recently. On Saturday night, Minister of State for Tourism and Sport Michael Ring travelled to the games to present a gold medal to Ireland’s Jason Smyth.
In light of the current cuts backs in the sector, Mr Corbett said this image was ‘galling’. He said it would have been impossible for many of the Olympians to get to the games without the services that are now due to be cut.
“Michael Ring went to London to hang a medal around an athlete’s neck while his Government plans to make these cuts. I feel at best this was very insensitive, and at worst smacks of hypocrisy. In fairness, Michael Ring has been very supportive of our causes through the years. He now needs to put pressure on [Minister for Health James] Reilly,” he said.
Mr Corbett explained that the loss of a personal assistant will have a major impact on people with disabilities and their families and he feels will result in older people being hospitalised more.
“I live by myself and am independent, and I also use my personal assistant for work. I can’t do without it. It will be difficult for older people to do without one, and I know that they keep people out of hospital. I have no doubt that people will miss taking their medication, get infections and end up in hospital. What they save now will cost more money in the future.”
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